April: the vegetable grower's holidays
by Derek Onley
Last year's advice for what to plant in April is still at
but I wouldn't bother looking because I said it was far too late to
plant anything and you would be better off feeding the leeks and
brassicas with compost and mulch and gathering compost and mulch
materials for next year. Or going on holiday.
But after that column appeared my gardening neighbour immediately told
me that he always planted his broccoli in April and that I was being
pessimistic (or lazy?), so maybe you should give it a go and report
the results back to Blueskin News.
It is true that you can get several different varieties of broccoli
and that some, as they so optimistically say on the seed packet, are
"the choice for the cooler months" or more reservedly "suitable for
cooler climates". If you see any such recommendation on any vegetable
then I reckon you should grab the seeds immediately and try planting
them down here in Spring, the warmer part of the year. Apart from the
few hot days in January they will flourish in our temperate Blueskin
Bay climate. Just remember to water them well if it gets dry.
Tomatoes are a different story. Don't be tempted by names like Arctic
Surprise, Oregon Spring or varieties that claim to have fed US bases
in Greenland, in the hope that they will grow outside like a cabbage.
My neighbour will undoubtedly tell me otherwise but it is barely hot
enough down here to get them to flower let alone produce enough for
green tomato chutney.
Some varieties of vegetable will grow better in your garden
micro-climate and with your style of gardening than others, so it is
worth experimenting. Last spring I planted two varieties of broccoli
alternately in a row, composted, mulched and sporadically squashed
caterpillars in a similar manner. De Ciccio, an old Italian variety,
grew tall and green, had one smallish central head and after cutting,
lots of small side shoots, though I did need to feed and water it
well. Shogun, a hybrid and one for the "cooler months", grew more
slowly, was greyer leaved, shorter and thicker stemmed, developed a
large central head later than de Ciccio and then seemed to struggle to
produce many side shoots.
Vegetable varieties that grow especially well and relatively easily in
my garden are: Manchester table carrots, merveille des quatre saisons
and royal oak leaf lettuces, yellow (golden wax) dwarf beans rather
than green ones and curly kale rather than the long, crumpled leaved
lacinato. If you have any varieties that have been especially
successful, or seeds that you have been collecting for years that grow
well around the Bay, maybe you could email me and we will include them
in the May Blueskin News.
Means I don't have to think up something to write about next month.
I'm going on holiday.
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